The Competition Protection Commission has fined Bulgargaz over €11 million for abuse of dominant position. Bulgargaz conducted different exploitative practices, including forcing clients to extend the term of their contracts without the option to negotiate the contract provisions.
The Competition Protection Commission recently accused Bulgaria's three energy distributors of abuse of dominant position. According to the commission, the companies determined and imposed unjustified high prices for access to their low-voltage distribution networks for television, internet and telephone services, thus restricting competition on the relevant markets.
The Competition Protection Commission recently presented a statement of objection to Bulgargas EAD. The commission claimed that Bulgargas had abused its dominant position in the natural gas supply market by imposing unfair trade conditions in the contracts for public supply. It held that Bulgargas's market behaviour was exploitative towards its customers.
The Competition Protection Commission recently fined Energy Pro Grids AD – the electricity distribution company for Northeastern Bulgaria – for abuse of dominant position. The commission held that Energy Pro Grids' conduct impeded competition on the upstream renewable energy electricity market.
The Competition Protection Commission recently imposed a penalty on Energy Pro Grids AD for disproportionate management of production capacities. The commission found that Energo Pro was obliged to limit electricity production when so ordered by the system operator. However, Energo Pro allocated the limitations using non-transparent and discriminatory criteria, putting other electricity producers at a disadvantage.
The Competition Protection Commission recently closed two files and imposed fines on the suppliers and distributors of sunflower oil for end consumption in Bulgaria. Both files were opened in a sector inquiry, during which the commission found retail price maintenance provisions in some distribution agreements.
The Competition Protection Commission recently launched a sector inquiry into the Bulgarian electricity market, following protests from citizens about high electricity prices. The aim of the inquiry is to analyse the legal framework of the electricity sector and its application, as well as the structure and organisation of each level of the electricity distribution chain.
The Competition Protection Commission recently fined Energo-Pro Sales AD for abuse of its dominant position after it terminated the electricity supply to a water utility due to non-payment of due amounts for electricity used. The commission stated that the extreme measure of terminating supply should not have been taken, given the social importance of the services provided by the utility.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently announced that it had extended the scope of the ongoing sector inquiry into the supply and distribution of gas in the production, trade, transmission and electricity supply markets. The commission will analyse the level of transparency in price formation and identify possible vertical restraints.
The Competition Protection Commission recently adopted guidelines regarding corporate compliance programmes. The commission encourages businesses to implement compliance programmes to avoid the risks of non-compliance with competition law. However, a compliance programme will not be considered as a mitigating factor when calculating the penalty for competition law infringement.
The Competition Protection Commission recently imposed the highest penalty in its history for prohibited agreements between the distributor of Hyundai in Bulgaria, Industrial Commerce OOD, and authorised Hyundai/Industrial Commerce dealers. The penalties were imposed at a maximum amount allowed by the Competition Protection Act.
The Competition Protection Commission recently announced the findings of its inquiry into the vertically related markets of wheat, wheat flour and mass wheat bread. Its investigation revealed that while increases in the wholesale price of flour were related to increases in the price of wheat, the respective increases did not always correspond, suggesting a prohibited agreement.
In a recent decision the Competition Protection Commission approved proposals for commitments from some of the largest retail chains in Bulgaria which had previously been suspected of prohibited practices. The commission found that the proposals contained specific measures which may prevent the restriction of competition in the relevant markets.
The Competition Protection Commission has adopted a regulation on remedies for the restoration of effective competition when it has serious doubts about whether a notified transaction may establish or strengthen a dominant position and opens an in-depth phase of the merger control proceedings. With the adoption of the regulation, the commission aims to make merger control proceedings more transparent.
The Competition Protection Commission recently adopted, for the first time, guidelines regarding the exchange of information between competitors. In addition, the commission lists in the guidelines examples of the unlawful exchange of information on the basis of its own practice, the practice of the European Commission and that of member states' anti-monopoly authorities.
The Competition Protection Commission recently announced that a statement of objection had been submitted to three Bulgarian travel agencies for infringement of the cartel prohibition under Article 15, Paragraph 1 of the Competition Protection Act. The three companies are accused of having manipulated the public procurement procedure for the provision of airline tickets for business trips.
Following an investigation into the hotel sector in which it considered market characteristics including supply and demand, price dynamics, the market shares of hotels within each category in different municipalities, the contractual relationships between hotels and tour operators and the role of trade associations, the Competition Protection Commission has held that operators in the sector have not engaged in anti-competitive behaviour.
The Competition Protection Commission has completed an inquiry into the Bulgarian fuel sector. The investigation focused on commercial relationships between participants in the market for the production, import and sale of gasoline and diesel. The inquiry also aimed to identiy legal and administrative barriers to market entry which arose under the Bulgarian legal framework.
The Competition Protection Commission has initiated two new sector inquiries. As a reaction to a dramatic increase in fuel prices, the commission recently started sector inquiries into the market for the production and realisation of gas oil and diesel. It has also initiated an investigation into the inter-related grain, wheat flour and bread markets following an increase in bread prices.
According to the Competition Protection Commission, the Bulgarian milk market suffers from similar problems to the equivalent markets in other EU member states. Following a recent investigation, the commission cited the conclusions of the European Commission and its recommendation that these problems be solved by implementing changes to EU common agriculture policy and the applicable national and EU competition laws.
In July 2009 the Competition Protection Commission initiated procedures against the largest retail chains in Bulgaria for suspected prohibited practices. The procedures were opened after the commission received several indications from the Bulgarian Confederation of Employers and Industrialists that the chains were engaged in anti-competitive activity.
Since the beginning of 2010 the Commission for the Protection of Competition has issued 25 clearance decisions on notification and five decisions in which it imposed penalties for non-notification and premature implementation of concentrations. Among others, the commission approved two concentrations in the supermarket retail sector and one in the mobile telecommunications sector.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition has increased its activity in the field of sector inquiries. This development in commission policy was expected, since the new Law on the Protection of Competition was adopted at the end of 2008 to regulate in more detail the commission's power to conduct sector inquiries.
The Commission on the Protection of Competition adopted the Rules on the Examination of Proposals for Commitments under the Law on the Protection of Competition. The new competition act stipulates that investigations have two phases. At the end of the first phase, if there is sufficient evidence of an infringement, the commission will prepare a statement of objections and start an in-depth investigation.
During 2007 and 2008 the Commission for Protection of Competition conducted six cartel investigations in different sectors. Following five of the investigations the commission imposed fines for price fixing and the exchange of sensitive commercial information. Two of these decisions have been upheld by the courts and are now binding.